Yankees' Top 5 managers: Hoch's take

June 15th, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five managers in the history of their franchise, based on their time guiding that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only … if you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite.

Here is Bryan Hoch’s ranking of the top five managers in Yankees history.

Yankees' all-time team: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | LF | CF | RF | DH | RH SP | LH SP | RP

1. Casey Stengel, 1949-60
An authentic and eccentric baseball ambassador who made the game fun for millions, “The Old Perfessor” enjoyed a distinguished 54-year professional career during which he became one of the game’s greatest managers, guiding the Yankees to 10 American League pennants and seven World Series championships over a dozen years at the helm.

Accepting the Yanks job after experiencing middling managerial success during previous stops with the Brooklyn Dodgers and Boston Bees/Braves, Stengel was entrusted with loaded rosters that featured the likes of Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto and a young Mickey Mantle. Stengel posted a regular-season record of 1,149-696 (.623) with the Bombers, including establishing a Major League mark by winning World Series titles in each of his first five seasons (1949-53).

The former outfielder entertained audiences with circuitous double-talk that came to be known as “Stengelese.” Often credited with reviving the practice of platooning players with a befuddling mix-and-match style, Stengel also brought championships to the Bronx in 1956 and ’58. His seven World Series titles are tied for the most by a Yankees manager. Stengel was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966.

2. Joe McCarthy, 1931-46
No Yankees manager filled out more lineup cards or won more regular-season games than McCarthy, who piloted the Bombers to a 1,460-867 (.627) record over 16 years on the bench. Known for a strict-but-fair style that kept his players focused, McCarthy opted not to wear a uniform number and deferred attention to stars like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and DiMaggio.

Under “Marse Joe,” the Yanks had one of the most dominant eras of any team in history, winning eight AL pennants and seven World Series titles, including four consecutive championships from 1936-39. Longtime executive Ed Barrow called McCarthy “the greatest manager who ever lived.”

“Never a day went by,” DiMaggio once said, “that you didn’t learn something from McCarthy.”

A longtime Minor League infielder, McCarthy started his managerial career with five winning seasons as the Cubs’ skipper. The Yankees then outbid the Red Sox for McCarthy, who raised his first championship flag in 1932. McCarthy, who also won titles in ’41 and ’43, was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1957.

3. Joe Torre, 1996-2007
Featuring a calming influence in the clubhouse and a stoic outward expression in the dugout, Torre steered the Yankees to four World Series titles and six AL pennants during his tenure, posting a regular-season record of 1,173-767 (.605).

A nine-time All-Star who won the 1971 National League Most Valuable Player Award during a stellar 18-year playing career, the Brooklyn-born Torre owned a sub-.500 managerial resume over stops with the Mets, Braves and Cardinals when George Steinbrenner came calling, seeking an end to a championship drought that had been in effect for nearly two decades.

Torre’s club rallied from an 0-2 deficit to defeat Atlanta in the 1996 World Series, then celebrated three consecutive titles from 1998-2000, including a dominant 114-win campaign in ’98 and a Subway Series victory in 2000. The Yanks advanced to the postseason in each of the 12 seasons managed by Torre, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014.

"When I was first hired, I know there was a lot of controversy involved," Torre said. "But it never bothered me. This was going to be an opportunity, for however long it was going to be, I was going to manage for an owner who just had a commitment to this city about winning. I knew I was going to find out if I could do this job or not."

4. Miller Huggins, 1918-29
The Yankees were viewed as second-class tenants of the Polo Grounds in the spring of 1918, but those fortunes quickly changed as Huggins -- the club’s eighth manager in 11 years -- led the franchise to its first three World Series titles and six AL pennants, charting a course that would help establish them as the century’s preeminent baseball club.

That was due in large part to the arrival of Ruth, who was acquired from Boston prior to the 1920 season and once said that Huggins “was the only man who knew how to keep me in line.” A diminutive second baseman during his playing days with the Reds and Cardinals, Huggins served as a player-manager with St. Louis, then guided the Yankees to a 1,067-719 record (.597) over 12 seasons.

Well-regarded for his shrewd baseball mind and commitment to fundamentals, Huggins raised consecutive AL pennants before helping to open the new Yankee Stadium with a championship in 1923. Huggins oversaw the fabled 1927 “Murderers' Row” club of Ruth, Gehrig, Earle Combs and Tony Lazzeri, which is considered one of the best of all time. Huggins died late in the 1929 season and was posthumously elected to the Hall of Fame in 1964.

5. Billy Martin, 1975-79, ’83, ’85, ’88
You can’t discuss the Steinbrenner-era Yankees without offering substantial weight to Martin, one of the most brilliant managers of his time who had five separate stints managing the club, including a World Series appearance in 1976 and a championship to cap a tumultuous '77 season.

Though Martin’s 556-385 (.591) record in pinstripes features a lower win total and number of games than six others, including Ralph Houk and Joe Girardi, his winning percentage trails only the fabled four of McCarthy, Stengel, Torre and Huggins among Yankees skippers with more than 324 games managed.

A Monument Park plaque dedicated in 1986 described Martin as “a man who knew only one way to play -- to win;” first as an infielder under Stengel, then as a manager whose aggressive style would come to be known as “Billyball.” Martin also managed the Twins, Tigers, Rangers and A's during his career, though his heart unquestionably resided in New York.

Though Martin and Steinbrenner clashed over the years, including events that led to Martin’s tearful resignation in July 1978 (and the cooler touch of his replacement, Bob Lemon, resulting in a World Series title), Steinbrenner adored having Martin’s combative presence in the dugout. There had reportedly been internal conversations about a sixth turn as the Yanks’ skipper before Martin died in an automobile accident on Christmas Day 1989.

Honorable mentions
Ralph Houk (1961-63, ’66-73): “The Major” was the first Major League manager to win World Series championships in each of his first two seasons, and just the second in the century to win consecutive pennants in each of his first three years. Elevated to the GM post after ’63, the former catcher returned to the dugout to oversee rosters with fading greatness beginning in ‘66, tallying a 944-806 (.539) mark with the Yanks.

Joe Girardi (2008-17): Girardi’s decade as the club’s manager included a World Series championship in 2009, three AL East titles and six postseason appearances, never posting a losing season while guiding the club to a 910-710 (.562) record. A hard-nosed former catcher who won three World Series titles as a player, Girardi met the challenge of overseeing the later seasons of the “Core Four” and likely overachieved with some of his clubs, particularly in 2013.

Aaron Boone (2018-present): A former big league infielder who hit an AL pennant-winning homer in 2003, Boone had no prior managerial or coaching experience when he shifted from the broadcast booth to the dugout in '18. He then became the first Major League manager to win 100 or more games in each of his first two seasons, and he owns a 203-121 (.627) record to date.